How We Collected $7,000 in Reclaimed Construction Materials in 4 Days for $300

Reader Contribution by Alyssa Craft
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Just two months ago, Jesse and I quit our lives in the city and moved to our bare 5 acres of land in Idaho with the intention of building an off-grid homestead from scratch (read part 1 and part 2 of that decision). The goal of this journey isn’t simply to build an off-grid homestead, but to do it debt-free and use as little money as possible.

This means that running to Home Depot every time we are in need of a material or tool isn’t an option. We knew that there were probably loads of leftover and second-hand materials in the area that we may be able to put to use if only we could find the opportunities.

We’ve done numerous things to find second-hand materials at an extremely low cost including posting a flyer with the materials we need, utilizing Facebook, visiting pawn shops, building relationships and checking Craigslist. However, the $7,000 materials we received for $300 came from a Craigslist opportunity; more specifically, a demolition.

The Craigslist ad was strictly advertising a bunch of galvanized metal roofing for $300. We called on the ad immediately and scheduled a visit at dawn the next morning as we knew the roofing would go quickly!

One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure

When we arrived at the property, we learned that there was both a house and a barn that were scheduled to be demolished in just two days’ time. Seeing as there were about 70 panels and panels can be $30/piece, we estimated that we would be able to get $2,100 in roofing for just $300. It wouldn’t be brand new, but that was fine with us as it should still be functional for many years to come.

After talking to the contractor, he let us know that we could take anything from the house and barn as it was going to go to waste if we didn’t. We took a look around and saw loads of usable lumber among other materials.

We knew that getting everything we wanted out of the property in two days’ time was going to be a stretch. The first priority was the roofing, but we were hoping we could get it done in a day so that the second day we could work on other things.

Taking the metal roofing off was back-breaking. We used a cat’s paw and a hammer, yet the ring-shank nails refused to budge! The first day, all we managed to do was get the roofing off of the barn. We still had the entire house to go.

Tearing Back Layers & Discovering More Second-Hand Goods

On day two we tackled the house where the majority of the roofing was. Just as we pulled off the first panel, we saw that the sheathing was comprised of beautiful 1×6 cedar boards! We knew we just had to grab those because cedar boards run anywhere from $20-$40/piece. However, we quickly realized that these boards weren’t going to come off easily with a hammer, or in one piece. A Sawzall was going to be the only way to go.

Once we peeled back a few cedar boards we discovered that the rafters were beautiful, barked cedar posts. They were as good as new and would be great to use on various projects around our homestead. We were hoping that we could grab them all but were quickly running out of time.

Approaching Demolition & Many Materials Left to Salvage

Just as our second day was coming to an end, we knew we were only going to end up getting a small portion of the cedar sheathing. There simply wasn’t enough time and the house was scheduled to be demolished in the morning. However, the contractor didn’t specify what time in the morning, so we set our alarms for dawn so that we could pry off a few more boards with the Sawzall.

Shortly after arriving the contractor showed up and saw that we were still slaving away on the roof. He recognized our work ethic and let us know that if we really wanted, he could postpone the demolition by a day or two. We were stoked! We immediately accepted the offer and got to work disassembling the rest of the roof.

On day three, we were finally in the groove. In addition to getting 70 panels of roofing total, we also collected 40 long cedar boards, numerous 2x4s, 2x6s, 2x8s, 4x4s, brick and more.

Day four was demolition day. We arrived early to get as much work done as we could before the excavator fired up. We were able to salvage the cedar pole rafters (40 total maybe). We took a short coffee break and figured that we’d go back to collect a few more materials but when we arrived, the demolition was complete. All that remained was a pile of rubbish.

Although it can be difficult to see a building with usable materials torn to the ground, we were so thankful that the contractor gave us an extended opportunity to salvage whatever we could for use on our property. After chatting with the kind man for a while, he offered to give us a call before the next demolition if there were salvageable materials that we would be allowed to take.

Lesson Learned: Demolitions Can Be a Gold Mine

I think the lesson we learned here is that demolitions happen more often than we realized, and many of the materials simply end up in a burn pile. By taking advantage of this opportunity, we were able to put the materials to good use and calculated that we saved around $7,000 over buying the same materials at Home Depot.

If you’re interested in salvaging materials for use on your property or homestead, try doing some research for demolition companies or contractors to see if you might be able to jump in before the structure is torn to the ground. You just might score on some awesome materials for pennies like we were fortunate to have done.

Follow us on our blog to see how we are putting these reclaimed materials to good use! We are currently working on building a roof for our DIY wood-fired hot tub, a shed to store our reclaimed materials as well as an add-on to our travel trailer for the winter. Stay tuned for updates on our off grid homestead progress!

Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off grid homestead from scratch with as little money as possible. In the meantime, she lives in a 19-foot travel trailer while beginning construction on a timber-frame home. Follow her many DIY projects, including building a barn, an off-grid hot tub and starting an organic garden. Find Alyssa on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. View her other MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles here.

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